Just got back from a great round 3 at Sears Point. My buddy Eric joined me again which was great since he could help me with any bike issues and he’s a great sounding board for working through my challenges out on track.
After having such a difficult first racing experience the last round, I came in with some simple goals:
- Ride the bike more then wrenching on it
- Improve my lap times
- Don’t finish last!
Saturday morning practice was foggy and a little chilly, but the track wasn’t too bad. I went out on track, only to find the bike was way way down on power. It just wasn’t possible- BRG had just finished tuning the carbs on the dyno and the motor was fine! Turned out I had accidentally disconnected a wire to one of the ignition coils when installing my AMB lap timer and I was running on a single cylinder. Doh.
Remainder of practice was spent working on my lines through turns 1, 4, 7 and 9. I started having problems with bottoming out the front forks under braking in turns 7, 9 and 11 which forced me to start trail braking into T7 and T9, but I couldn’t figure out a good solution for the entrance into 11. I was becoming really tentative through turn 4 as the bump at the apex kept causing the front to want to wash out on me, but Eric was able to give me some really good advice on how to change my line to fix that.
Time for Clubman. I started in P4 on the outside of the first row, which was my first time ever on the front! I timed the start perfectly, but ended up wheeling really bad and lost a position before going into turn 1. I put my head down and tried to chase down the leaders, but their pace was a lot faster then mine and I ended up riding a lonely race, finishing 5th. Afterwords, I found I was doing consistent 2:04’s which was 2 seconds faster then my best time last round- headed in the right direction, but still 4 seconds off my best lap ever lap time on my 748.
Sunday morning I went out for practice and continued to have issues with the front end and so I decided we needed to change the fork oil to up the compression and adjust the rear shock to work out a tire wear issue. My first race was race #9- 650Twins so we had plenty of time.
Since I had no points, I started second to last on the back row. Didn’t get a good start this time, and had a lot of work to do. While the leaders ran away at the front, I concentrated on closing the gap on the rider in front of me, thinking I was in last place. I was able to close the gap a little, but small mistakes and a rear tire which didn’t seem quite right would allow the rider in front to open up the gap again and then on the exit of the carousel on lap 3 I caught the sight of another bike out of the corner of my eye trying to make a pass (Hi Frank!). Wondering where the heck the other rider came from, I concentrated on getting on the gas and a strong drive down the drag strip into 7 and made sure to get a good drive on the exit into the esses. I was able to hold on until lap 5 when I went in too hot into 7, bottomed out the forks and ended up going wide, allowing the other rider to take the lead. I was 5 or 6 bike lengths behind now and had to work hard to catch up even as my rear tire seemed to be slipping more then normal.
Finally on the last lap of the race I was was close enough to make my move- I had noticed that the other rider was taking a really wide line into the chicane (T9) and I had been working hard all weekend on taking a tighter line and with the changes to the forks I was more confident on the brakes. I was 3 bike lengths behind on the exit of T8 and hard on the gas. I was able to out brake the other rider, hit the apex and exit the turn knowing I had made a clean pass. I got hard on the gas through T10 and concentrated on getting good drive out of the hairpin and onto the front straight to take the checker! It was great racing with you Frank!
Afterwords while in the pits, I looked on my lap timer and showed I was doing 2:08’s[*]. WTF? I couldn’t believe I had lost 4 seconds- even with my rear tire slipping (which looked absolutely fine no less!). Eric undid his last change to the shock hoping that would help the traction issues and I got ready for 650 Production where I’d grid last (inside of row 3) due to not having any points.
* Turned out I wasn’t doing 2:08’s in 650Twins afterall- I was looking at the wrong session in my lap timer and I had really been doing consistent 2:01’s and got as low as 1:59.8, but I didn’t figure that out until Monday.
In the next race I got a great start off the line, but quickly lost a position and ran in last place for the rest of the race since everyone was a bit faster then I was. Rather then worrying about position, I just concentrated on my riding and tried to put in consistent fast laps. I was still having problems bottoming out the forks under heavy braking and my rear tire was again slipping in a few turns, but both were noticeably better so it really wasn’t affecting my riding or confidence much.
The race went quickly and after taking the checker I looked down to see what my lap times were. I was doing consistent 2:00 and had done a 1:58.0! That’s 8 seconds faster then my best lap last round. Needless to say I was ecstatic and was grinning ear to ear.
While this weekend went a lot better then last, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have help. I would like to thank KC and the rest of the gang at BRG Racing for fixing my clutch and doing such a great job tuning my carbs. The bike is running just great (at least when it’s firing on all cylinders! :) and it’s done wonders for my confidence and the way my lap times are improving proves it.
And of course my buddy Eric who once again came out to not just support me, wrench on the bike when needed, but also be there to help me with my riding by offering sound advice and lots of encouragement. Eric can’t make it to the next round and I’m going to miss his over the top support.
And of course my lovely wife Wendy, who not just puts up with me and my crazy racing dreams, but supports me too. Thanks Love!